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Filmism.net Dispatch November 26, 2012

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Now The Dark Knight Rises is appearing on DVD, it will inevitably clean up all over again. Personally I loved it, it was every bit a realistic action drama with comic book stylings (more so than a comic book movie, which I like less and less nowadays).

And even though the mild backlash it faced blindsided me a little bit, I can understand it now. All directors 'go weird' given enough clout, you see. Just look at David Lynch's Inland Empire or the Star Wars prequels with all the flaws a studio system might have carved out (Jar Jar Binks, Hayden Christensen, 'Noooooooo').

So as the biggest, most highly regarded commercial director on the planet lately, Nolan had to do something unexpected to raise his cachet even more. More power to him for that intention, it's just that many who try go overboard and we end up with the problems some people had with Bruce Wayne being in hiding for eight years, John Blake figuring out he's Batman just by looking at him, etc.

But I also think those issues are the flipside of the Nolans' greatest strength as storytellers. Chris and co-writer brother Jonathan make every character, scene and line of dialogue matter. Just look at Inception, which was so tightly scripted, so stripped back, every moment so laden with exposition that if you went to the restroom halfway through you would have been completely lost (actually if you didn't go to the restroom during Inception you were probably pretty lost first time around).

The Dark Knight Rises does the same thing by taking overarching concepts and depicting them with a single glimpse. After being holed up in Wayne Manor for nearly a decade, a physically wasted wreck, Bruce realises he has to come out of hiding and become Batman again, so he puts a brace thingy on his leg and suddenly he's fighting fit again. When Bane breaks his back during their fight and throws him in the well prison, Wayne decides to fight back when he sees his beloved Gotham City threatened. So with a bit of determination and a haymaker to the injured vertebra, he's cured of a broken spine.

Ridiculous? Of course, but the Nolans had to load in a lot of plot in as short a time as possible (the point of all drama, according to most modern storytelling theory). The density of material in the story means a lot of what happens is a mere footnote. Would every Gotham City cop really have been trapped in the sewers, not a single man finding a way out? Can you really cure yourself of a broken spine by being hung on a rope and punched with nothing but an agonised scream and a shitload of chin-ups?

Come to that, how does Bane eat if he'll die when he removes the mask? Of course, we don't think about that while we're watching Tom Hardy's mesmerising performance. The power of great fiction comes as much from what's left out.

So stop hating on the bat, yo. And when you do, go back and watch one of the modern Hitchcock's (Brian De Palma) trashiest, sluttiest mysteries, Body Double. And join me in celebrating the best weapons from the movies here.

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